I visited a local United Church of Christ yesterday, wanting to be at a UCC Church the Sunday before Obama, a UCC member, is elected president.
From reading resources on UCC's website, I expected to hear something about a moral, civic or Christian calling to vote our conciences this week. I expected a bit of excitement or anticipation in the air about the enormity of things on or related to this week's ballot: embryonic stem cell research, the first possible woman vice-president, the first possible black president, the selling off of a public park for development, the possible long lines at the polls, the largest expected voter turnout in well..forever, the uncertainty of the reliability of the polls due to secret racism, the uncertainty of the reliability of the polls due to the lack of cell phone polling, the total disregard for journalistic integrity or journalistic neutrality or, the UCC committment to keeping church and state seperate. I even would have been a teensy-tiny-little bit satisfied if, in the mention of upcoming events, the minister had said, "and on Tuesday, don't forget to vote." Nothing. Nada. Silence.
The only mention of the election was when I told someone afterwards that I was reaserching UCC, Obama and Civil Religion for a sociology paper. This 60 something white woman sneered and said she isn't voting for Obama because he turned his back on Reverend Wright. In our three or so minute discussion, she revealed that all she knew about the "Chickens Roosting" sermon was that it was "a typical black sermon." She had never listened or watched it. She also said, when I pointed out the possibility, that it had never occured to her that Reverend Wright and Obama felt strongly that the message that Obama has been spreading (a lot of it sounds a lot like UCC theological ideas) is so vital to not just our country, but to the world, that perhaps Rev. Wright and Obama may both have understood that because of unreasonable and racism and selective out of context skewing of a small portion of Wright's words, that perhaps a separation between the two of them may have been necessary in their eyes for the greater good during in order to allow Obama to win the election.
She turned away before I could point out that just less than 2 months ago, according to the UCC newspaper, Jeremiah Wright was still expressing admiration for "a scrawny little kid-pointed nose, big ears, momma from Kansas, daddy from Kenya."
She turned away before I could ask her why on Earth, or in Heaven, she would choose to support McCain and Palin (and, by not voting for Barak Obama, she would be by default, if nothing else), who claim to be Christians but stand against everything Jesus stood for! Yet, on the grounds of a possible slight against someone whose sermons she hadn't even listened to, she would vote against someone whose political platform and personal ideology sounds awfully close to the UCC vision of hope for peace, equity, personal involvement, ecological responsibility, service to the poor and sick. Since she is a UCC member, I would assume that she also shares at least some of that vision. Oh yeah, that was what Jesus' message was all about too!
She left before I could say that her not voting for Obama is like saying she believes in the teachings of Jesus, but her judgemental egotistic sense of righteous indignation won't let her stand up for her principles in the voting booth. (I probably wouldn't have said that anyway, but I definitely was thinking it while I was amazed at her shortsightedness.)
I'm pretty sure I can guess who Jerimiah Wright is going to vote for. I may possibly be wrong, since I have not had a personal conversation with him.
I am upset to know that people are turning their backs on right actions, and using Reverend Wright as an excuse to give votes away to the religious right who believe they have a right to re-write the constitution and the bible in their own self-righteous image as oracles of God and Democracy around the world. (Or, at least to Russia and Canada-while negotiating fishing disputes from Palin's back porch.)
What the heck is she thinking? Are there others like her, using a black minister as an excuse not to vote for a man who is bringing hope to a country beleagured with unemployment, war and helthcare travesties? OOPS- nevermind. I forgot. The Republicans are doing that, it says so right in their new ad.
By the way, for those of you who still have not heard the entire "America's Chickens are Coming Home to Roost" sermon, please watch it. The link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOdlnzkeoyQ . Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, an Independent, Green, Purple or Orange Party member, please watch it. If you are a Christian, a Pagan, A Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, a Scientist, a Sociologist, a Socialist, or a tried and true Capitalist, PLEASE WATCH THAT SERMON IN ITS ENTIRETY. Reverend Wright's words have gotten blown so out of proportion that what Fox News and the Republicans are leading people to believe is so far from the truth that it's frightening. The chicken sermon (i haven't listened yet to the sermon that is being used for the new McCain ad) is all about accounting for ourselves as individuals and as a country before we make a knee-jerk decision that could affect everyone. He's not even saying we shouldn't go to war, he is saying to look at whether or not we should engage in a war and whether or not that would be a just war. It is prophetic and powerful and beautiful and much, much more than simply "a typical black sermon." I would love to have dinner with him, I would just have to be careful if I were ever to run for political office later-NOT!
I know that almost everyone says that the only issue that matters in this race is the economy (or, abortion, depending upon who you listen to in the media). The issues are even bigger than just dollars.
Religious Freedom, in a way is at stake. I say that because those of us who are humanist, Unitarian Universalists, Reformed Jews or liberal religious Christians have for too long allowed the religious right-the "moral" minority, the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Fallwells to define what morality is, and by extention, what being a good patriotic American is. In allowing fundamentalists to dominate the American Moral and Political discourse, we have turned over, in essense, our right to have a say in what laws our country passes and follows. We have allowed our civil liberties to be eroded in aquiescence to the fear of being accused of being un-patriotic, un-American and, by extention, immoral for bowing to the powers of terror. I am far more terrified of losing my health insurance, losing my right to speak and blog freely, losing my confidence in the idea that you and I can make the world a better place than I am of the potential for terrorists to ruin our freedom.
These are the things that I ponder in this time of excitement and trepidation. I am glad that people are talking and debating the issues, making up their own minds and sometimes changing them. I am proud that I live in a country where I am allowed not just to vote, but to voice my opinions and, even better, to really listen when others voice theirs. I am proud to live in a country where patriotism, like faith, is at its best and strongest when difficult questions are asked and answered and where each of us can hold our own opinions and, hopefully still be able to break bread together in peace and together seek a justice we can all live with.
I am sad that some few people disrespect one another, our democratic process and by extention, our freedom of speech and the essense of this country itself. This destructive attitude which so upsets me has been manifesting in the stealing of McCain/Palin signs from people's lawns, the burning of Obama signs and shouting matches in school hallways. (by the way, as serious and sad as this issue is, I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes after writing this, while I was listening to an NPR story this morning about this very phenomenon. I can't find an online link to that story, sorry.) I am saddened that the color of someone's skin-white or brown or black is all that people can see in the candidates, and by extention, themselves and their neighbors. (I never will understand that. There is so much more to me than being white, or even being a woman! There is so much more to see and know.) I am saddened that patriotism is being defined not by our love of country, but instead by our religiuous views, geography, political party or skin color. I have never claimed to be a patriot, but I have always felt so honored and priveleged to be an American, that I don't take anything for granted. I am aware that our Constitution is a dynamic, living document that was crafted to incite debate and remain flexible, yet firm in the principles of democracy. One of those principles is change, rooted deeply in a nation that grew out of a revolution of ingenuity in thought and continually learning the value of honoring our differences and finding common ground with one another.